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Nine line up for water board race

Three posts to oversee Castaic Lake Water Agency up for election

Posted: August 16, 2008 7:51 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Experienced local insider water officials running for a seat at the Castaic Lake Water Agency have seen the numbers on water scarcity and say sound leadership is more important now than ever before.

Nine people including four familiar faces — two incumbents and two men already on the agency board — have filed to be on the November ballot.

Each of the three divisions and the board at-large have returnees running in the election.
One veteran water official is Ronald “R.J.” Kelly who held a seat representing the Santa Clarita Water Division.

He was appointed to the board five years ago but this year is running for election in Division One.

Although, technically, he is not considered an incumbent, Kelly has been privy to all internal documents detailing water supply to Santa Clarita Valley residents.

“I’ve seen the professionalism that has gone into making the agency many times better than when I first started there five years ago,” he said Wednesday.

A recent lawsuit filed against the agency challenging the relationship between it as wholesale supplier of water to four water retailers and its subdivision, the Santa Clarita Water Company now called the Santa Clarita Water Division, resulted in conditions handed down in court, one of which calls for the division’s seat at the agency to now be an elected position.

Eleda Luther, the only person running against Kelly, could not reached for comment despite attempts made by phone each day since Wednesday.

The redefining of roles at the agency — affecting Kelly directly — opened up an at-large seat that represents the Santa Clarita Water Division.

His seat had been an appointed one. Now, as a result of the agency’s acquisition of the Santa Clarita Water Division and the subsequent court ruling it is an elected position.

“Once the suit was settled, they had to have an elected position on the board of directors,” Kelly said.
Bill Cooper, who is hoping to sit in the seat vacated by Kelly, told The Signal he’s learned from his experience on the board that water is becoming increasingly more valuable as a diminishing natural resource.

“When I first came to the board, water in the state of California seemed stable. There was plenty of water,” he explained. “But over time, and especially in the past year, it’s become evident that all the infrastructure needed is not in place.”

Two other veterans also have their hats in the ring — E. G. “Jerry” Gladbach, a prominent figure at the Association of California Water Agencies, and William “Bill” Pecsi, longtime manager at the Metropolitan Water District responsible for issues involving water conveyance.

When asked, both men cited cleaning up the groundwater for perchlorate contamination at the Whittaker-Bermite site as the most urgent issue facing the agency.

“I think this is the most significant environmental issue the (Santa Clarita) Valley has faced and the water agency has taken the lead in that cleanup,” explained Pecsi, who has sat on the board of directors at the agency since 1999.

Gladbach, after listing the cleanup of perchlorate in Santa Clarita Valley groundwater as the number one priority, said: “The most urgent issue is expanding the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant.”

Perchlorate is a cancer-causing byproduct produced in the manufacture of jet fuel, quantities of which were discovered in groundwater in parts of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since 1960, Gladbach has pursued an extensive career in water — past president of the Association of California Water Agencies, still a member and part of the association’s executive committee and, due to the position, appointed to represent it at the Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles (LAFCO) which assesses requests for land annexation.

In addition to the at-large seat on the agency’s board of directors, the three other seats — those held by Cooper, Gladbach and Pecsi — expire in November, according to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

People running against the three experienced directors include: retired peace officer David P. Martuscello, of Newhall, who is running against Gladback in Division 2; Saugus small business owner and Signal columnist Leigh D. Hart going up against Pecsi and two people vying for the at-large seat, David V. Clark, of Stevenson Ranch and Gary J. Lysik, a chief financial officer from Canyon Country.

Phone messages were made to each of the candidates and, in most cases, followed up with similar e-mail messages.

An e-mail response was received at The Signal from Dr. Karen Lysik advising the newspaper: “We are in the midst of finalizing the team that will assist Gary in his bid for the At Large seat with CLWA.

“It is anticipated that a media relations specialist will be in place not later than August 27.”

One of those who called to share his views on water was 63-year-old Martuscello, who has lived in Newhall since 1970.

“Water is a very precious commodity, so we have to be careful with it,” he said, noting that the issues surrounding water are “complicated.”


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